Governing Institute and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation Announce SLLF Lois M. DeBerry Scholarship and Select Tennessee State Rep. Raumesh Akbari as First Recipient

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Aug. 6, 2015 – The Governing Institute and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) announce the establishment of the annual SLLF Lois M. DeBerry Scholarship for a deserving woman selected to participate in the Governing Institute Women in Government Leadership Program. The first recipient honored with the scholarship is Tennessee State Representative Raumesh Akbari, elected to represent House District 91, Rep. DeBerry’s former district.

Governing Institute’s Women in Government Leadership Program highlights the outstanding contributions of women currently in public office, provides leadership development and job critical skills during three in-person Summits, and creates a network to pay it forward by inviting and mentoring the next generation of women leaders to run for office. The inaugural class of 24 just completed a yearlong curriculum. Rep. Akbari is the first member of the Class of 2016; the full cohort of elected state and local women leaders will be announced by August 31, 2015.

The Hon. Lois M. DeBerry served in the Tennessee House of Representatives with distinction for 41 years from 1974 until her passing on July 28, 2013. She was the longest-serving member of the state House of Representatives, second African American woman to serve and the first woman to be speaker pro tempore of the Tennessee House.

“Lois would be proud,” said SLLF President Stephen G. Lakis. “During her lifetime, she served as an inspiring mentor to so many young people. She marched with the Freedom Fighters side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King. She cared for her family and for the families of so many others. She was a beacon of hope and a source of compassion for young women who had lost their way, and through it all, she maintained a poise and a grace few of us have ever had the good fortune to witness. The SLLF Lois M. DeBerry Scholarship is a fitting legacy to the memory of one of the great women leaders of our time.”

“It is an honor and privilege to be selected as the inaugural SLLF Lois M. DeBerry Scholarship honoree and to participate in Governing’s Women in Government Leadership Program,” said Rep. Akbari. “I'm looking forward to embarking on this yearlong journey of reflection, fellowship, and growth. I am so proud that I will be able to help continue Speaker Pro Tem DeBerry's legacy through my participation in this program. Speaker Pro Tem DeBerry shattered glass ceilings and broke down barriers for women in government across this country, and I'm so proud to receive the scholarship named in her honor.”

"I first met Representative Raumesh Akbari at the SLLF Emerging Leaders Program at The University of Virginia, Darden School of Business,” said Stephen Lakis. “How perfect that this talented young lady should be the first recipient of the SLLF Lois M. DeBerry Scholarship. She is bright, poised, and dedicated to public service. Raumesh will be inspired by her peers from across the nation as they will most assuredly be inspired by her exceptional qualities of leadership."

“The Governing Institute applauds the SLLF for its generosity in honoring the contributions of Rep. Lois DeBerry with this annual scholarship in her memory and we welcome Rep. Akbari as the first member of the Class of 2016,” said Julia Burrows, director of the Governing Institute. “Together, we are making a deliberate effort to invest resources and support women in government who truly make a difference in their communities and in this country.”

About the Governing Institute

The Governing Institute advances better government by improving performance and outcomes through research, decision support, and executive education to help public sector leaders govern more effectively.

Governing is a division of e.Republic, the nation’s only media and research company focused exclusively on state and local government and education.

About the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF)

The SLLF is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to professional development for our nation’s current and future state legislative leaders. The constituency includes Speakers of the House, Senate Presidents, Majority Leaders, Minority Leaders, and Pro Tempores. And through the Emerging Leaders Program, the SLLF offers mentoring to first- and second-term legislators who have been identified by their peers as future leaders.

For more information:
Julia Burrows
Director, Governing Institute

Stephen G. Lakis
President and Chief Executive Officer, State Legislative Leaders Foundation

The Honorable Raumesh Akbari
Tennessee State Representative